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Edison subsidiary to close Chicago coal plants [UPDATED]

Sunset over Fisk Generating Station, Chicago
Sunset over Fisk Generating Station, Chicago
Eric Pancer(vxla)/Flickr

Two Chicago coal plants with a connection to California-based Edison International will close under an agreement announced today by Chi-town Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and environmental groups. Midwest Generation owns the Fisk and Crawford generating stations; MWG is a subsidiary of an Edison International holding company. Green groups blame coal plants for health problems related to their pollution spew. Coal emissions also contribute to global warming. 

A blog at the New York Times gives the credit for the closures to Emmanuel. Various press releases from a huge coalition of environment groups tout the Chicago Clean Power Coalition's legal and lobby efforts:

Greenpeace, Chicago Youth Climate Coalition, Eco-Justice Collaborative. Environmental Law and Policy Center, Environment Illinois, Faith in Place, Illinois Student Environmental Coalition, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Nuclear Energy Information Service, Pilsen Alliance, Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization, Protestants for the Common Good, Rainforest Action Network Chicago, Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, Doctor's Council SEIU, Sierra Club, and the Southeast Environmental Task Force.

And the Chicago Tribune takes a little credit, even as it says all of the above were responsible for the deal. 

MWG hasn't yet returned calls from KPCC for comment. But the interesting question may be beyond today's headlines: to wit, does this signal a sea change for Edison, a prominent energy company with continuing coal investments? 

Local connections? Several. Last October, the head of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, delivered protest letters along with Chicagoland neighbors of the Fisk and Crawford power plants to Edison's Rosemead HQ. Greenpeace and Sierra Club are both on multi-year, multi-state campaigns to get rid of coal in a number of places…including in the electricity supply chain for Los Angeles, via the LADWP. (LA's own mayor Antonio Villaraigosa kicked off his second term by promising to end the use of coal at the largest municipal utility in the U.S. by 2020.)

Lastly, Rahm Emmanuel's spokeswoman, Sarah Hamilton, was formerly deployed to Mayor Tony V here in LA. I wonder if she misses our weather.


[UPDATE, 3:30 PM: A City of Chicago press release includes a comment from Pedro Pizarro, of Edison Mission Group. It's his explanation for why his company's acting now:

"Unfortunately, conditions in the wholesale power market simply do not give us a path for continuing to invest in further retrofits at these two facilities. This is an extremely difficult decision because of the men and women who work in these plants and take great pride in their contribution to a reliable and affordable supply of electricity. We will work in good faith with leadership of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to manage a transition for the dedicated professionals they represent."]